Chuck Strahl’s decision to not seek re-election draws to a close a career that has spanned one of the more fascinating periods in Canadian politics.
And it leaves a hole in Ottawa that will be difficult to fill.
Two decades ago, Strahl was one of many Canadians captured by the passion of Preston Manning. That Manning had charisma, anyone who sat in a packed gymnasium to hear him speak would agree. But it was more than the homespun common sense of this son of a former Alberta premier that drew Strahl into politics. It was a shared belief that Canada could be made stronger and more inclusive through change.
Manning was never able to convince a majority of Canadians that his particular vision was right.
But the Reform movement did have an impact.
Manning’s Reformers helped push the ruling Progressive Conservatives from power and to the brink of political oblivion. Strahl was part of the Reform Party caucus that under Manning won 52 seats in Parliament after winning none in the previous election.
Certainly the party had its trials; it never captured sufficient broad-based support in places like Ontario and Quebec, and that frustration eventually cost Manning the party leadership.
But for those who remained in the party as it morphed from Reform, to Alliance, and eventually to the current Conservatives, there continued an unabashed debt to the party’s original leader.
When the party, under Stockwell Day, began to waver from that vision, Strahl was among the sitting MPs who openly challenged the party direction.
It was a messy time, and one that Strahl never seemed publicly comfortable with.
But in the end, he and his fellow dissidents were successful and the party was able to not only reunite, but secure power – something the party has held (albeit tenuously) ever since.
During his years in office, Strahl has served Canada and his constituents with something that goes beyond hard work and dedication – he’s served with class.
At a time when the tone of politics has become increasingly vitriolic, where anger and invective have replaced consensus and debate, Strahl has maintained a reputation for fairness and civil discourse.
Not all may agree with his politics, but few can question the professionalism with which he has undertaken his responsibilities under Canada’s behalf.
He deserves our appreciation.
Greg Knill, Chilliwack Progress